Free US ground shipping on orders $75+
Shop now.

The Best Food to Eat After Giving Birth (and Why)

bowl of oatmeal with bananas on top

After a baby arrives, basic things like eating, drinking, and sleeping can feel hard to accomplish, but that doesn’t mean they’re not extremely important. Here’s a closer look at the best food after giving birth.

After childbirth, our bodies need nourishment and restoration. It might be tempting – or just habit – to reach for our old favorite foods, but some of them may not be the most supportive right after having a baby.

But what should new moms be eating after birth and throughout postpartum? Read on to find out.

bowl of oatmeal with bananas on top

Nourishment after childbirth

How we eat after childbirth reflects how much we – and the world we live – value this unique time. Our bodies give so much to growing and birthing a child, and we must build back our reserves after we give birth. 

Ancient medical traditions like Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda teach that how we nourish and care for ourselves in the first weeks after childbirth (usually around the first 40 days)  – determines our long-term health overall. That’s a big deal!

Permit yourself to take your rest, nourishment, and restoration seriously. Educate the people around you that your body is recovering and that this time is one of healing and transformation – not just getting back to the usual way of things.

There is no going back, only forward; with the proper support and nourishment, you will thrive instead of just surviving.

Postpartum vitamins and minerals

There are a lot of wonderful articles about vitamins and minerals that are particularly important in the postpartum period, like Vitamins B12, D, folate, iron, magnesium, and zinc.

Research suggests that DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid: an omega-3 fatty acid found in cold-water, fatty fish, such as salmon) may also be important postpartum. Including foods rich in all these nutrients is a wonderful way to support your healing.

Those of us who are vegan need to pay special attention to both Vitamin B12 and DHA, as there are few vegan sources of these nutrients and deficiencies have been linked to poorer maternal cognition and caregiving.

Another important piece of nutrition after childbirth is how new moms should approach eating overall. Since it’s not just the nutritional content of our foods that matters to our health postpartum, but how we approach nourishment in this sacred time of life.

Learn more: Are Prenatal and Postnatal Vitamins the Same? A Closer Look

variety of nutrient dense food

Postpartum eating tips to optimize nutrition

  • Focus on warm foods
  • Eat foods that are easy to digest

1. Focus on warming foods

There’s a reason that traditional schools of medicine, like Ayurveda and TCM, recommend warm foods and drinks. In TCM, the belief is that we lose a great deal of heat  – the source of strength and nourishment – in childbirth.

So, in addition to wearing warm clothes, including hats and socks, TCM recommends consuming only warm foods and liquids during the “lying in” period or the first forty days after birth.

Want to learn more? Check out The First Forty Days

Though there is not much in the way of medical research on the postpartum practices of Traditional Chinese Medicine, a preliminary study in China showed that new mothers had fewer symptoms of postpartum depression when they adhered more strictly to the traditional “doing the month” practice (which includes a particular postpartum diet and also restrictions on housework, social activity, personal hygiene, and contact with the cold).

The teachings of Ayurveda are similar, with an emphasis on warm foods and liquids, as well as warming spices (more on that below) during this time of recovery. 

2. Eat foods that are easy to digest

Think of someone recovering from childbirth like you would about someone recovering from a major surgery. You probably wouldn’t start by feeding them a super-rich and decadent lasagna. 

The same is true for childbirth, which is a demanding physical experience that often includes medical procedures. And, for the record, a C-section is a major surgery.

For people who are rebuilding and recovering, we want to start with gentle, easy-to-digest foods and go from there, using a stepwise approach.

If things go well with gentle foods or those foods don’t seem enough, we move on to heartier but not heavy foods. 

The idea is not to adhere to any strict diet or set of rules, but to feed your body the nourishing foods that feel right to you.  

And, since we know that the above nutrients, amongst others, are essential, we can choose foods that contain them, like cooked leafy greens (rich in folate, iron, and magnesium) and seafood and chicken (rich in zinc and iron), to give just a few examples.  

To be clear, heavy foods are fatty and tough to digest – think cheesy or fried foods. And even though they don’t count as “heavy” foods, things like raw veggies are actually tough to digest. 

Raw foods are not recommended right after childbirth in traditional medicine teachings because they are cold and require our digestive system to do a lot of work.

So, even if you ate salads daily before giving birth, that may not be the best choice after you have your baby. On the other hand, if your body indeed calls for a particular food, go for it – your body knows best.

But often, when we drop in and listen to what our bodies tell us, the idea of certain heavy or cold foods doesn’t sound all that great. There’s a difference between craving and needing a specific food; when we pay attention, we learn to distinguish the two.  

So now we know that our bodies need warm, gentle, and nourishing foods after childbirth. What should we start with?

bowl of warm rice with saffron and egg

The best food to eat after giving birth

  • Soups
  • Protein and rice bowls
  • Foods made with warming spices
  • Fermented foods

1. Soups and bowl-style meals

For a good reason, many think of soup as the ultimate comfort food. Soup is excellent for everything from colds to stomachaches – and even our skin. So it’s no surprise that broths and soups are the mainstays of foods recommended postpartum in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Traditionally, TCM recommends bone broths, which makes sense, considering that bone broth contains nutrients like iron and calcium – and was even shown in one small study to have anti-inflammatory properties. (4) 

Chicken soup is also a great choice, as it has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Eating miso soup has been shown in some research to help with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) symptoms. So, if you enjoy miso, that can also be worth a try, especially if you’re experiencing reflux.

The idea is not to adhere to any strict diet or set of rules, but to feed your body the nourishing foods that feel right to you.  

If you’re thinking, “Soup is not enough!” then it’s likely time to introduce heartier foods, like stews and warm rice bowls. Ideally, we would make these with foods rich in the abovementioned nutrients.

In TCM, organ meats like liver and kidney are given to new moms. So, if you like liver, feel free to include it.

But you don’t have to go that route, as including proteins like beef, chicken, seafood, eggs, beans, or tofu paired with cooked leafy greens and carrots, healthy fat sources like avocado, nuts, and seeds in a rice bowl can make a wonderfully satisfying meal.

See Also
mom and baby standing in the kitchen drinking coffee

grated and whole ginger

2. Foods made with warming spices

Including warming spices boosts the warming factor of foods, but traditional warming spices like ginger and cinnamon have other benefits, too. 

Ginger can help with nausea and inflammation, and cinnamon may help with insulin resistance. Adding the anti-inflammatory powerhouse turmeric can make your meals even more nourishing. 

Curcumin (the active ingredient of turmeric) is not absorbed very well on its own, so adding turmeric to a meal containing both fat and black pepper will increase the absorption of curcumin.

Saffron, in particular, is favored in Ayurveda for the postpartum period, and for good reason. The Ayurvedic “First Days Rice pudding” is given after childbirth. It is warm, easy to digest, and contains nourishing ghee (clarified butter), plus warming spices like ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom, and saffron.

And it appears modern medicine is starting to catch up with what our ancestors knew, as saffron has been found in some studies to be just as effective as the antidepressant fluoxetine for depressive symptoms and has also been studied for the treatment of postpartum depression.

fermented food assortment

3. Fermented foods

If you like sauerkraut, yogurt, and other fermented foods, rejoice! And, if you don’t, you may want to consider experimenting with them since more and more research shows that a healthy gut microbiome is deeply connected to our overall health, including postpartum.

One study showed that people who received Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 in pregnancy and postpartum had significantly lower depression and anxiety scores in the postpartum period.

This makes sense since the bacteria in our gut help make neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, GABA, and glutamate, which are deeply important to our mood regulation. About 95% of the body’s serotonin is made in the gut.

Look at the labels of your fermented foods of choice to ensure they have the beneficial bacteria you’re looking for. 

A great way to start with sauerkraut is to add it to things like pulled pork tacos or scrambled eggs. 

However, note that fermented foods are often relatively high in sodium. Use them thoughtfully if you watch your salt intake due to high blood pressure or other salt-sensitive conditions.

introducing the postpartum nutrition book with shop now button

Mindfulness around eating can help

Lastly, take a moment to be present and enjoy eating. Nowadays, it’s easy to think of food as just a collection of nutrients. But food and eating have always been a way for people to connect to their senses and one another.

Being present while we eat is good for our health, too, and mindful eating has been found to lower inflammation and cortisol levels. Focus on eating instead of eating in front of a screen, driving, or being distracted.

Use mealtimes to connect with yourself, your surroundings, and the people around you. Of course, with a new baby in the house, mindful eating might feel like the last thing you can do but try to keep it in mind with each meal.

Reconnecting with how important it is to recover and restore ourselves after an experience as profound as growing and birthing a child can empower us to advocate for what we need. 

Hopefully, the information above provides some tools that help you get the rest and nourishment you need – and deeply deserve. 

Other articles on postpartum nutrition you might enjoy

View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll To Top